“Take your girl swimming on the first date,” suggests a popular internet meme, so that her makeup will be ruined and you’ll see what she really looks like underneath that mask of deceit.
Glittery eyelids, plum-colored lips and perfectly filled-in eyebrows are made to seem like a part of the grand scheme women have supposedly orchestrated to confuse all men. Although this may seem ridiculous, it is a widely held belief that women only wear makeup to appeal to men and to trick men into thinking they’re beautiful. The fact of the matter is that makeup is not restricted to one gender and people do not use makeup in order to trick or deceive others. People of all genders use makeup as a creative form of self-expression.
Makeup dates back to ancient Egypt, where men and women frequently used it. Even King Tutankhamun’s tomb was riddled with cosmetics. Despite its history, it is typically taboo for anyone other than women to wear makeup in the Western world. Makeup is associated with femininity and trickery rather than creativity and art. Not coincidentally, women are also associated with femininity and trickery. These parallels have been established, and when people transverse these clear-cut boundaries, they are seen as outcasts. We, as a society, must rethink and reject the archaic restraints put on something as simple and harmless as makeup.
Social media is home to many people who have established large followings by breaking gender stereotypes with their makeup tutorials. Many men have makeup-related YouTube channels and have found great success. For example, James Charles, famous for his YouTube tutorials, recently became the first male CoverGirl spokesperson. At just 17 years old, he has already broken gender stereotypes and found success that many people never find. However, these boundaries are still not completely broken, as nonbinary people are not often recognized in this field. Although Charles has made some progress, we still have a long way to go in breaking these stereotypes.
Popular makeup artists on social media have also proven that makeup does not exist to hide oneself or to deceive others. The thousands of tutorials available online illustrate that it is an art form and a means of self-expression. It takes skill, technique and knowledge and there are no limits to how unconventional one can get. Browsing through Instagram, one can find tutorials for vibrant eyeshadow, ombre lipstick and creative renditions of classic winged eyeliner. Each tutorial brings a new technique or idea and each person uses artistic license to create something original. If this is not the definition of art, then what is?
Although makeup is generally a creative outlet, there is a fine line between using it as such and using it to attempt to reach an unrealistic standard of beauty. The beauty industry is worth $80 billion and is projected to reach $90 billion by 2020, profiting from insecurities that stem from these truly unattainable standards.
Models are often portrayed in magazines with a natural look, when in reality, they have had their makeup professionally done and their faces photoshopped to perfection. This perception of “natural” beauty is not natural at all. Although makeup is a great form of self-expression and people can wear makeup for any reason they choose, no one should need makeup to reach a poorly defined idea of beauty.
We, as a society, must let go of our past judgments and accept that cultural changes occur. Makeup, something that provides creativity and passion, should not be restricted. There is still a long way to go, but social media’s considerable impact on our society will help get us there. And if you’re still thinking of taking a crush swimming on the first date, just know their waterproof makeup can withstand it.
Emily Kaufman is a sophomore majoring in English.